Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line (Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia)

Alright, so we finally left New York State! Wednesday night we slept in a Walmart parking lot in St. Clair, Pennsylvania. Then we drove about 200 more miles on a bunch of backroads, trying to avoid tolls. Not a good idea in retrospect. Bumpy as hell and very stressful for Joey, the captain. We stayed over at Cedarville State Park in Brandywine, Maryland. It was nice, but unfortunately we received alerts on our phone that the air in the general D.C. area was fucked up and people were advised not to go outside. So…we moved on pretty quick, and drove another 150 miles to Hampton, Virginia. We’re staying over at a small state park. We’ll be here a few days, because I have a book reading in Norfolk on Saturday.

I haven’t been to the south since I was a kid, and I have virtually no experience in southern states. Joey and Drew lived in North Carolina and Florida for a while. I’ve practically lived in upstate New York all my life. So this is pretty exciting to me to be somewhere very different, even if we haven’t done or seen much yet. Here is a small sampling of what I have seen so far.

Elliott's Tire and RedNex Guns and Ammo, somewhere in Virginia
Elliott’s Tire and RedNex Guns and Ammo, somewhere in Virginia
Trees at Cedarville State Park in Brandywine, MD
Trees at Cedarville State Park in Brandywine, MD
Truck for, um, Kegel…fruit. Lancaster, PA
Truck for, um, Kegel…fruit. Lancaster, PA
Surprisingly beautiful scenery I woke up to in a Walmart parking lot in St. Clair, PA.
Surprisingly beautiful scenery I woke up to in a Walmart parking lot in St. Clair, PA.

Buffalo, NY

We are now staying in Western New York, not far from Buffalo. This RV park we ended up at is kinda awesome. I definitely prefer this to the last state park we stayed at. It’s definitely kitschy, but unpretentious. There is a petting zoo, and a small lake with swimming and canoe rentals, a mini golf course. It’s been an amusing stay, with the background sounds of the occasional goat or donkey. We are also near a firing range, so the occasional gunshot goes off.

Quick quote: “I just realized something. Goats are kind of like dogs that don’t lick you.” -Drew

People here drive weird old trucks and golf carts around. There’s a redneck vibe, and I definitely got a weird looks from people when Joey and I walked the cats this morning. But no one has been outright hostile.

I have wifi! I worked most of the morning. I’ll probably go skateboarding and for a dip in the lake again soon. I’m feeling pretty content. This is still a big adjustment, but so far I am happy.

1000 Islands and a Walmart Parking Lot: Northern NY Journey

So we are officially living full-time in the RV now. We stayed up at a state park in the 1000 Islands. Highlights include

  • No wi-fi for several days
  • My phone is dead, forever
  • First time I saw a praying mantis
  • First time in a 30-foot canoe

Now we are in a Walmart parking lot in Northern New York State. It’s been a bit of a rough start, but everyone’s doing pretty good, including the cats. Lack of cell phone means lack of easily accessible camera, and thus, I don’t have any pictures just yet. Brain is also tired, so I am short on amusing anecdotes at the moment. Stay tuned.

Oh, and apparently I can write three books before age 27 but I can’t put away macaroni and cheese leftovers in a bag. Somehow the bag ended up inside out and there is cheese everywhere. I…don’t know what happened… But the others had a good laugh.

Salmon River Reservoir: Richland, NY

We’ve been spending some time up in the Tug Hill region. This place is really beautiful. Rocky beaches, great for swimming. We’ll be staying up here for a week or so eventually, so I’ll have more to say then. Right now I’m honestly thinking about some upsetting news stories I just read- about yet more trans women, of color, being murdered. I’m feeling very privileged to be able to do this, particularly as a trans person. Life has been really hard for very long. It’s kinda stupid how meeting the right person has improved so much for me. Not that it fixes everything…It just bothers me that people can’t get unstuck in this country (world?). I was stuck for so long. I still don’t have much money. But I have relative freedom now. I have support. Anyway. I’m feeling very privileged, and a bit sad, and scared. I still feel unsafe, often. A part of me doesn’t want to reveal where I am on things like this blog. A big part of me would rather just disappear. But I do think it’s important that all different types of (trans) people write their stories. And I also can’t help writing and sharing. I could just do it in a notebook, but that’s less satisfying for me than it used to be. So I keep writing. In other arenas, I’ve been sharing more about my mental health, and past, and family of origin. It’s…scary. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that something bad is going to happen. But that’s life.

Anyway, here are some pictures.

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I’ve been feeling like the region around here is haunted. I know that sounds silly. Sometimes a part of my brain opens up and I find myself believing in the supernatural. It’s usually when my brain is seriously processing past trauma. Anyway, we were driving home the other night, through the country, and I saw three figures in the road. I was about to yell out to Joey to look out, when they disappeared. it was a man, a woman, and a child.

Joey’s currently hard at work with all the practical aspects of making this motorhome thing happen. I want to be more helpful in that area. My brain is in the clouds. It’s going to be ridiculously hot today. Lately I only really feel good when I’m under water. I should…work on that.

Malvern, Ohio (Flite Fest, Day 2)

On the left is my partner, Joey (I recently gave him a haircut). On the right is Drew, his kid. Drew is flying an RC plane, which you can’t see here. We are at Flite Fest.

And now, to experiment with pointless videos! Today I went to Flite Fest again in Malvern, Ohio. As previously stated, this event is not interesting to me. But, we are here for Drew, and that’s what matters. At some point I want Drew to explain why it’s interesting, perhaps in a video. I did like watching him fly his RC places. I am mildly curious about learning to do it myself. I did a lot of wandering the village around today, and I took some videos and pictures. Malvern was a small, mostly deserted town. I bought some blackberry wine at a gas station. The ladies were very impressed that I was all the way from New York (it said on my license). I have interacted with pretty much no one otherwise. I’m realizing I’m the shyest in these situations. Hm, what else has happened? Mittens is much more comfortable here at the hotel than she was the first night. That’s a relief.

Both Snowflake (left) and Mittens (right) seem pretty well acclimated to hotel life.

And now some of my photography that I took on my walk around Malvern. I have an obsession with rundown and abandoned buildings, if you didn’t already know this.

IMG_4972   Another fairly pointless video for you: And lastly, a deceptively prettier picture of the view from our hotel tonight. Through the bug screen.  And so, this is where I shall end. Tomorrow I have a couple writing assignments I need to finish, and I’m also hoping I can check out this nearby lake/swimming spot if possible. Drew and Joey should be back soon, and then I imagine it will be sleep time. So good bye! Oh and for the record, running through the grass was an awful decision. I’m still itchy.

Carroll County, Ohio

It is the first REAL OFFICIAL CAT ROAD TRIP! Meaning, this is the first time we have travelled a distance, as the entire family,  including Mittens and Snowflake. For the most part, it has gone very well. Snowflake seems comfortable and adventurous, as always. Mittens is a little skittish. She will definitely be happier when we have the motorhome. Note- we know our cats well and pay attention to them and we would not put them in uncomfortable situations that we did not feel they could handle. My partner Joey has trained animals all his life and did a lot to prep them for the trip. So don’t worry.

I write this from the third floor of a hotel in Carrollton, Ohio. This is possibly the most boring place I have written about yet. We are here because Drew is attending Flite Fest, in Malvern, Ohio. This is a gathering of people who do remote control airplane stuff. It’s…really really not interesting to me. But it’s nice to see him doing something he enjoys. It’s basically in this big cornfield (see below). I left to go do some work, because there was no wi-fi. I ended up at the Malvern Public Library, which wasn’t much bigger than our hotel room.

Snowflake enjoys the hotel room.
The view of scenic Carrollton, Ohio from our hotel room
We left a gift. You can’t tell, but the pin says, “Diversify Science!” Rainbows AND science. Clearly a hate crime.
This building in Malvern was interesting.
The view from Flite Fest.

It’s sort of nice to be on a trip that isn’t centered on my writing career. Actually, a week or so ago Joey and I went to NYC to see Morrissey live, at Madison Square Garden, but I never got a chance to really write about that. It was an overnight trip, and the concert was awesome, and the after party was fun, but the rain was awful.

OK I can’t remember anything else that happened today or yesterday. I’ll write more over the next few days.

The Cats of Chamounix Mansion, Philadelphia, PA

A penny jar at Hostel International at Chamounix Mansion

It’s been over a week since I last wrote and it’s high time I got to telling you fine folks about my trip to Philadelphia for the Philly Trans Health Conference. I know you’re probably dying to hear about how I actually did at the conference, and all the interesting things that happened being surrounded by so many other trans people…and how it was empowering, and uplifting, and blah blah blah. BUT. First, more importantly, I need to tell you about that cats at Chamounix Mansion.

The guest house where we stayed
The main building for the hostel

That is the place we stayed. We couldn’t pronounce it so we called it Shamwow Mansion. It’s an international hostel and it was cheap, but amazing. We had a private room in the guest house and it was only $55 a night.  It was located in this beautiful park about a ten minute drive from the convention center and downtown Philly. The first thing I noticed upon arrival were THE CATS.

This guy, who I call Spike Jr., kept walking out in front of people’s cars. He may have had a little bit of a death wish.
Tuxedo Jones (I have a habit of naming cats when I see them, so assume that these are the names I came up with unless otherwise specified).
This is Bacon. He is the only one who isn’t feral, and I didn’t give him his name. He lives at the mansion, sometimes in the masion. Nobody else is allowed inside. He is king.
Whitey II immediately jumped atop Joey’s car after we parked.

I was kind of disappointed that we had to go to the conference at all because this place was awesome. I could have hung out with the feral cats and horses and roamed the grounds all three days, if I didn’t have to sell books.

Another shot of the guest house, in the evening.
This is apparently the kind of hostel where people keep horses in a stable and play polo during the day…? So odd.
Smokey was very friendly and we chilled outside the guest house for a while and I tried not to smoke on him. He kept wanting to get in my lap though, so eventually I just put out the cigarette. It’s a good friend who tells you things you don’t want to hear. Thanks Smokey.
Joey took lots of nature photography from the windows. He was lucky and just stayed at the mansion the second day while I went to sell books at the conference.

Anyway, maybe I’ll get around to telling you about the conference eventually. Some cool stuff happened, though I’m having trouble remembering. It was all kind of a blur. However, as slippery as my young memory can be, I will never forget the cats of Shamwow Mansion.

Geneva, NY (Finger Lakes Pride)

As I write this I am currently staying at a hostel in Philadelphia. I will have much to say about this- we’ve only just arrived. So I figured I better get a move on with my post about our trip to Geneva for Finger Lakes Pride! That was last Saturday.

The Flounge

First, we got there around 10 for a trans/gender-variant open mic at this place called The Flounge. It was a coffee house and gift store. Most the performers, mostly older trans women, shared their personal transition stories. I read a few chapters of my second book. The reception was warm. I enjoyed it.

Me reading at “The Good, the Bad, and the Funny!” open mic

After that we killed some time by the lake. I had a wine slushie and Joey took some photography. Then it was time to set up for the festival.

I was in a tent with several nonprofits. It was actually kinda rough being next to the domestic violence/sexual assault counseling volunteers, because I had to hear people ask them questions all day and multiple triggering subjects were brought up. Anyway. I managed. I was also annoyed by the nonprofit next to me on the other side that was asking questions for prizes, one of which was “if you’re a lesbian who sleeps with other women, do you still need to get a pap smear?” It was cissexist and trans erasure and ugh. I’d explain why, but I’ll give my reader the benefit of the doubt that they can figure it out or look it up. Hint: not all lesbians have cervixes, not all people with cervixes are women.

People were pretty cool and I sold and signed quite a few of my books and some of my art. It was really hot and muggy, so that sucked, but I did OK. Especially after the free wine tasting! I may have made a few rounds. After that, I tried on some costumes made available by the local theater group.

It was cool to see what appeared to be a few young trans boys pick up my books and buy them. Cis people too. But it touches me when young trans people are interested. One of them looked super sad, and he bought a book so I hope the book gives him something to relate to maybe? I dunno. Some of the people I talked to were really super nice and encouraging of the work I’m doing.

Oh and there was this one drunk woman…

Lady: This is great! I mean, it’s all so important. Bruce Jenner’s interview really opened my eyes to this stuff.

Me: Oh. I haven’t seen it. (Note: this was before I heard she was going by Caitlyn)

Lady: Seriously? He- well- she? He-slash-she…He-she…

Me: Whoa, hey there. Not sure that calling them he-she is cool.

Lady: Well he said to still call him he. For now.

Me: Cool. So do. I feel the same way, by the way. Call me he, for now.

Lady: Haha you’re too funny!

Me: No really, it changes sometimes. But he works, for now.

Lady: Oh, haha, OK. Right! Why not? Hahaha! Well um, bye!

Fun times. I was absolutely charming but firm through this whole interaction and kind of in love with myself.

Later as it started to pour and thunderstorm, a young gay man and his bestie stopped to talk to Joey and I about cats for quite some time. They bought some of my cat art and we showed pictures of our cats on our phones. They were awesome.

Then we had to rush out of there before we were all struck by lightning and died.

All in all I had a good time. Highlight of the trip? A little girl of like 6 was perusing through my used queer books and came across Maurice by E.M. Forester. “Mommy, I need this!” “What, why? There are no pictures.” “But I need it!” “No, come on….” “Noooooo! Please!” I whispered to the mom that she could have it for free, because it was just too dang adorable and reminded me of myself. Maybe she is a future fellow trans-fag-English-major-Writer in the making. We can only hope!

Tomorrow morning I start vending at Philly Trans Health, so I hope to see people there! More about this Philly trip coming ASAP, as it happens most likely. Stay tuned. THERE ARE PICTURES OF FERAL CATS SOON TO COME.

Great Bear Recreation Area, Fulton, NY 

During the day, I worked on writing career stuff and Joey worked on photography. This evening we hiked at the aforementioned park in Fulton, about 30 minutes north of Syracuse. I went swimming in the Oswego River. It was cold at first but I adjusted and it felt great. I’m unsure why seaweed makes me so nervous. Maybe it’s instinctual. 

 

Joey caught a frog but I didn’t get a good picture. We also saw a (painted?) turtle, a catbird, and minnows. 

My bathing suit was very fem. Tight short shorts.   Luckily no one was around so I didn’t feel awkward. So I guess that’s all I have to say.  Next trip, Geneva to table at Finger lakes pride. That’s Saturday. We might stop at Montezuma wildlife refuge tomorrow. 

Ok good night.